FRANCE AND THE REPUBLICAN IDEALOne essential feature of French national identity is the Republic, an icon passionately associated with the tri-color and national glory. While French Liberalism was secured by the conflicts of the Great Revolution, both the Republic and Democracy (if only for men) had to be won in the revolutionary struggles of the 19th century. Indeed, feminists have argued that the Republic was a particularly masculine political phenomena until the heroism of French women during the Resistance, brought them into the franchise in 1945 with the creation of the Fourth Republic. The Republican Ideal is founded on the notion that the French—citoyen and citoyenne--are democratic constituents of the nation, la patrie. Unlike Anglo-Saxon Liberalism, where competing interests lobby for majority control, the Republic embodies Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s belief that the General Will is more than the sum of individualized interests. Chastened by the revolutionary polarization of the 19thcentury, the modern Republic pursues a consensual politics representative of the great social diversity that has endured in France, and this has led it to alternate between a paralyzing parliamentarianism and centralizing authoritarianism.
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